I'd like suggestions on great Italian. Something that rivals the great Italian places in Toronto. 2 years ago, I went to Il Campari, and quite frankly, I wasn't impressed. It was expensive and stuffy - reminded me of a Frank Sinatra style place from the 60s or 70s. Also, where is the best pizza in Montreal? Maybe somewhere one can go for lunch with a salad. Thanks!
I'm not familiar with the Toronto scene, but FWIW we have Toronto friends who can't get enough of Café Via Dante. 251 Dante, 514 270-8446. They serve northern fare, with a short menu that changes fairly frequently and usually has a good mix of standards and relatively uncommon dishes. They also charge an arm and a leg for wine, so score one negative. If everyone has an app and a main, expect to pay about $75/person with tax, tip and a low-end bottle of wine.
As for the ambiance, the décor is fairly sober and subdued, but not very formal (there is actually a TV set in the dining room), and not in line with old-school Italian restaurant clichés.
Is Lucca hands-down the best? Don't know, haven't tried enough places.
But I'll agree the food is very, very good, with the veal chop earning special mention. The tiramisu is good, but the ice cream with blueberries (which might be a special) was better. If they make it when *real* blueberries are in season...watch out.
The ambiance is very pleasant, too.
Some glitches I noted:
- maybe a rare problem, don't know, but I experienced a significant delay between arrival of my main course and everyone else's. I didn't time it, but the eternal-feeling wait was at least three minutes, probably more.
- many of the once-white plates are old, grey and scuffed. We're paying about $80 a head here...and I'd be surprised to see plates like these at Chez Claudette. Franchement.
- water service: IMNSHO, H2O should be offered to diners, and tap water should not be implicitly excluded from the available options. Even if just about everyone always orders bottled.
- wine by the glass: if it's good enough to cost $10 a pour, it's good enough to be named on the wine list.
Despite these quibbles, make no mistake...we enjoyed our meal very much and will return. But the buzz on this place had led me to expect something leagues better than Café Via Dante, and I don't believe this is so. In my limited experience, Lucca may be better, but only slightly.